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Democracy Dossier

'Secrecy and Power in Australia's National Security State'

A new report from leading academics Dr Keiran Hardy, Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh and Dr Nicola McGarrity has revealed how Australia's extensive national security apparatus and creeping surveillance powers have compromised Australia's status as a leading and open democracy.

Funded by thousands of GetUp members, it takes a forensic look at Australia's extensive national security powers, a growing culture of government secrecy, and how these are undermining public interest journalism and whistleblowing. And how we can push for reform.


Research by Dr Keiran Hardy,
Dr Rebecca Ananian-Welsh, and Dr Nicola McGarrity reveals:

  1. We have a national security apparatus more extensive than any comparable democracy.

    These unprecedented powers can be used to silence whistleblowers and journalists.

  2. The Department of Home Affairs possesses an inordinate amount of power

    The inaugural Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton and his Secretary, Michael Pezzullo, personally influenced the creation of this super ministry, against expert advice.

  3. A culture of secrecy has had a chilling effect on public interest journalism.

    This means record refusals of freedom of information requests and, when released, with huge redactions.

  4. The use of an extraordinarily broad definition of 'national security' interferes with journalism.

    When journalists and whistleblowers report on matters of national security in the public interest, they risk prosecution.

  5. 'Democracy Dossier', GetUp, 6 September 2021.

Download the report here or read below.
Years of anti-democratic legislation and secrecy by our government is taking its toll. This report makes clear recommendations to reverse this damage and build a stronger democracy, by:

  • Improving transparency by strengthening whistleblower protections and working with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner to change government culture.
  • Protecting the Fourth Estate by ensuring journalists can report in the public interest without prosecution, narrowing the definition of 'national security', and protecting confidential sources, including requiring judge approval to decrypt journalists' communications.
  • Strengthening oversight by reviewing and splitting the powers of the Home Affairs super ministry to improve checks and balances, resourcing the Independent National Security Legislation Monitor, and reviewing the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence and Security, including expanding its oversight and adding independents and minor parties to its membership.
  • Getting involved because increased citizen participation is essential to change, including raising awareness, writing to elected officials, and engaging in parliamentary inquiries.